The Australian 14th seed leads their series 4-2, although both meetings on clay have resulted in wins for Nadal, including the semi-final of the Hamburg Masters last month.
Hewitt, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion and world number one has built his reputation on lightning movement and an iron resolve. He admires the same traits in Nadal and says he enjoys sharing a practice court with him.
''I like the guy,'' said 26-year-old Hewitt, who won the first set of their clash in Hamburg.
''I think he's got a great attitude. He's got that never-say-die attitude in his game. And he's not afraid of anyone, which I think is great.
''Once we get on the court, though, and we're playing each other, that's the battle zone.'' Nadal, aiming to become the first man to win the title three times in a row since Bjorn Borg in 1980, is also a big fan of Hewitt and watched enthralled as the Australian grinder battled back from two sets down against Argentine former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio in the second round.
''He's in the round of 16. I think he's playing at his best level, and I must say that Hewitt, at his best level, is one of the best players in the world,'' said Nadal, who celebrated his 21st birthday today.
Hewitt has two Roland Garros quarter-finals on his CV but it would be a major surprise if he were to reach that stage for a third time. If he is to pull off a shock, he knows he will have to win a war of attrition against the powerhouse Spaniard.
''His game is obviously about wearing a lot of players down,'' said Hewitt. ''My game has been over the years about wearing people down, as well. I was prepared for that against Gaudio, so Nadal's going to be no different.'' REUTERS BJR PM1953